Far from ideal. Photo: Flickr/Lee
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Women urinating on the street in the small hours: the mark of a Britain in crisis, or the ultimate bonding experience?

Bond-forming though it may be, weeing in public is not ideal for women. And even Scandinavians haven't found the solution.

Recently, there’s been a lot of talk of “safe spaces” in feminist circles. Frankly, the only safe space I’m interested in right now is one in which women can take long, beery slashes at 3am.

“Where do Swedish women piss at night?” is a phrase that’s now tattooed onto my Google search history until the end of days. The story of how it got there is one of sorrow, toil and public urination.

It’s puke o’clock in the West End. Piccadilly Circus is a wilted salad of the world’s least imaginative tourists and the world’s most depressing street performers, at the best of times. At around 2am on a Saturday night it makes this seamless transition from “just plain crap” to “Boschian Hellscape”. I’d know because, pretty much wherever in London I go out, this is where I’ll end up waiting for the night bus back to the south-west.

Usually, at this point in the evening, I need a wee. On this particular occasion, I really need a wee. I’m doing the dance. My bladder is writing an all-caps email to social services. A “code yellow” klaxon is ringing in my ears. Previously I’d probably sprinted three times in my life. One of them involved getting to the buffet at a Jewish wedding. This time, the fourth perhaps, I’m legging it towards McDonald’s on Shaftsbury Avenue. McDonald’s, the safe haven of late-night piss-needers. And, at this point, the golden arches are more beautiful to me than the sun rising behind Beyoncé riding a snow leopard through an alpine meadow. Until, that is, I get to the door and a couple of knackered looking employees are locking up.

At an inhuman speed, I scope out nearby pissing spots. One otherwise-empty side street contains a passed-out suited man in a doorway, a twinkling puddle of sick at his feet. Can I wee in front of, albeit comatose, puke-man? I probably shouldn’t. I make my way towards the Eros statue, under which a group of Italian teenagers are piling thundering accolades on their comrade who had both the wit and the gall to put a traffic cone on his head.

I need inspiration. Fast. In the gutter, I spot a discarded pint glass. Suddenly I’m a genius. I’m Marie Curie, I’m Ada Lovelace; I’m the cleverest bitch alive. I grab the glass and make a dash down Piccadilly and hunt down the emptiest side street. I find one sparsely dotted with tired drunks. This will do. Luckily, I’m wearing a skirt. I lift the pint glass to my crotch and, with what I thought was an impressive level of discreetness, pull my knickers to one side. I begin to piss. Boy do I piss. In fact, I piss more than a pint. I’m not Curie. I’m not Lovelace. I’m an adult woman standing in her own piss. I’m a disaster.

So back to “Where do Swedish women piss at night?” For women, emptying your bladder in the wee (ha) hours is usually an ordeal. Unequipped with a “the world is my fucking urinal” gammon hose, we usually rely on our friends to form a modesty circle around us while we take a fumbling slash. When we piss down alleys together and watch our glistening urine trails cross paths, we cement friendships. Welcome to the sisterhood.

Bond-forming as it may be, using your friends as human shields while you whip out your minge in public is far from ideal. It occurs to me that the Scandinavians, of all people, must have an answer to this. You can always rely on those Scands to be socially progressive and design savvy. Surely they must have invented some kind of sculpture-like all-night public toilet, where women can wee in peace. Surely.

As you can probably imagine, my Google search was unfruitful. I still don’t know where Swedish women piss at night. But, wherever it is, I bet it’s lovely.

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

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Is defeat in Stoke the beginning of the end for Paul Nuttall?

The Ukip leader was his party's unity candidate. But after his defeat in Stoke, the old divisions are beginning to show again

In a speech to Ukip’s spring conference in Bolton on February 17, the party’s once and probably future leader Nigel Farage laid down the gauntlet for his successor, Paul Nuttall. Stoke’s by-election was “fundamental” to the future of the party – and Nuttall had to win.
 
One week on, Nuttall has failed that test miserably and thrown the fundamental questions hanging over Ukip’s future into harsh relief. 

For all his bullish talk of supplanting Labour in its industrial heartlands, the Ukip leader only managed to increase the party’s vote share by 2.2 percentage points on 2015. This paltry increase came despite Stoke’s 70 per cent Brexit majority, and a media narrative that was, until the revelations around Nuttall and Hillsborough, talking the party’s chances up.
 
So what now for Nuttall? There is, for the time being, little chance of him resigning – and, in truth, few inside Ukip expected him to win. Nuttall was relying on two well-rehearsed lines as get-out-of-jail free cards very early on in the campaign. 

The first was that the seat was a lowly 72 on Ukip’s target list. The second was that he had been leader of party whose image had been tarnished by infighting both figurative and literal for all of 12 weeks – the real work of his project had yet to begin. 

The chances of that project ever succeeding were modest at the very best. After yesterday’s defeat, it looks even more unlikely. Nuttall had originally stated his intention to run in the likely by-election in Leigh, Greater Manchester, when Andy Burnham wins the Greater Manchester metro mayoralty as is expected in May (Wigan, the borough of which Leigh is part, voted 64 per cent for Brexit).

If he goes ahead and stands – which he may well do – he will have to overturn a Labour majority of over 14,000. That, even before the unedifying row over the veracity of his Hillsborough recollections, was always going to be a big challenge. If he goes for it and loses, his leadership – predicated as it is on his supposed ability to win votes in the north - will be dead in the water. 

Nuttall is not entirely to blame, but he is a big part of Ukip’s problem. I visited Stoke the day before The Guardian published its initial report on Nuttall’s Hillsborough claims, and even then Nuttall’s campaign manager admitted that he was unlikely to convince the “hard core” of Conservative voters to back him. 

There are manifold reasons for this, but chief among them is that Nuttall, despite his newfound love of tweed, is no Nigel Farage. Not only does he lack his name recognition and box office appeal, but the sad truth is that the Tory voters Ukip need to attract are much less likely to vote for a party led by a Scouser whose platform consists of reassuring working-class voters their NHS and benefits are safe.
 
It is Farage and his allies – most notably the party’s main donor Arron Banks – who hold the most power over Nuttall’s future. Banks, who Nuttall publicly disowned as a non-member after he said he was “sick to death” of people “milking” the Hillsborough disaster, said on the eve of the Stoke poll that Ukip had to “remain radical” if it wanted to keep receiving his money. Farage himself has said the party’s campaign ought to have been “clearer” on immigration. 

Senior party figures are already briefing against Nuttall and his team in the Telegraph, whose proprietors are chummy with the beer-swilling Farage-Banks axis. They deride him for his efforts to turn Ukip into “NiceKip” or “Nukip” in order to appeal to more women voters, and for the heavy-handedness of his pitch to Labour voters (“There were times when I wondered whether I’ve got a purple rosette or a red one on”, one told the paper). 

It is Nuttall’s policy advisers - the anti-Farage awkward squad of Suzanne Evans, MEP Patrick O’Flynn (who famously branded Farage "snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive") and former leadership candidate Lisa Duffy – come in for the harshest criticism. Herein lies the leader's almost impossible task. Despite having pitched to members as a unity candidate, the two sides’ visions for Ukip are irreconcilable – one urges him to emulate Trump (who Nuttall says he would not have voted for), and the other urges a more moderate tack. 

Endorsing his leader on Question Time last night, Ukip’s sole MP Douglas Carswell blamed the legacy of the party’s Tea Party-inspired 2015 general election campaign, which saw Farage complain about foreigners with HIV using the NHS in ITV’s leaders debate, for the party’s poor performance in Stoke. Others, such as MEP Bill Etheridge, say precisely the opposite – that Nuttall must be more like Farage. 

Neither side has yet called for Nuttall’s head. He insists he is “not going anywhere”. With his febrile party no stranger to abortive coup and counter-coup, he is unlikely to be the one who has the final say.